Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Friday, October 30, 2009

SoYummi Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Whipped Mousse

SoYummi is primarily known as a maker of soy equivalents of meat products. (Notice the spelling: SOYummi.) But Kate Lawson of The Detroit News pointed out a new line of theirs.

You'd never know that this naturally delicious line of organic treats is lactose/dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and sweetened naturally with beet syrup.

Oh, it also contains prebiotics, has no trans fats, is low in sodium, is a source of fiber and is nut-free.

Now people with celiac disease and those who are lactose-intolerant or suffer from allergies can enjoy a lightly whipped mousse as a snack or dessert, thanks to SoYummi.

They're available in a variety of flavors, but my favorite is the lime-flavored whipped pudding. It's delicate and delicious.

So I went to to check out their products page. I found no whipped mousse there. No dairy-free snacks of any kind, in fact.

Usually this is the point at which I start complaining about company websites. But this time the total absence of the product has a different and probably weirder explanation.

You have to go to their Canadian website, to find their whipped mousse. And like any good Canadian website, there's no mention of their sales in the U.S.

You're better off being a Ken Jennings than a Sherlock Holmes to solve this mystery. Any good trivia maven or fifth grader who studies geography knows that Windsor, ON and Detroit, MI are twin cities, staring at each other across the Detroit River. And Windsor is south of Detroit. (Just like Reno, NV is west of Los Angeles in triviaworld. You got to know these things.) So Detroit probably gets a lot of Canadian goods before the rest of us.

It's in Whole Foods there so it may become available in the rest of America. If not, hey, Canada's a gorgeous place.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Once Again, Animal Milks and Lactose Intolerance Don't Mix

Appropriate and timely for Halloween: the Nonsense That Just Won't Die!

Remember when I beat my head again the wall because of the lady who claimed that goat milk had smaller lactose molecules?

I found another one.

Yayi International is a leading manufacturer and distributor of goat milk powder products in China. While the Company's main focus is premium infant formula goat milk products, its product portfolio currently includes goat milk powders, goat milk formula tablets, and goat foremilk powder. ...

Compared with cow milk, the molecules of lactose in goat milk are smaller, making the milk more easily absorbed by individuals who are sensitive to milk products.

They vant your money. Bevare!

And they're not alone. Camel milk has equally magical properties!
If Dr. Millie Hinkle has her way, camel milk will someday be as easy to find in North Carolina as barbecue.

For 3,000 years, camel milk has been revered for its medicinal properties in the Middle East and Hinkle, a physician in Raleigh, hopes to bring it to the U.S. and make it legal to sell.

"We know that folks who are diabetic or lactose intolerant have absolutely no allergy to camel milk, so it's a great thing for those people as well," she said.

Lactose intolerance doesn't involve an allergy. Neither does diabetes. Camel milk affects those with either in exactly the same way as cow's milk.

This particular nonsense is too dangerous to make jokes about. It's such extreme nonsense, though, that I have to wonder if the reporter is quoting Dr. Hinkle correctly. Unfortunately, it's within the realm of possibility. Dr. Hinkle is an ND, of Naturopathic Doctor, which North Carolina does not regulate or allow to prescribe medications, according to Wikipedia. Her site does include citations of medical journal articles about the possible efficacy of camel milk for diabetics, but also includes the false "fact" that "Camel milk can be easily digested by lactose-intolerant individuals."

No. It can't. Camel milk has almost exactly the lactose content of cow's milk. The protein segments are slightly different from those in cow's milk so that the immune systems of people with milk allergies may not get triggered by camel milk.

So where is the backing for that weird fact?

There's a link on that page of Dr. Hinkle's website that leads to Camel Milk for Food Allergies in Children by Yosef Shabo et al., Israeli Medical Association Journal, vol. 7, December 2005, pp. 796-798.

It does contain the following line:
Lactose is present in concentrations of 4.8%, but this milk sugar is easily metabolized by persons suffering from lactose intolerance [5].

But if you go to footnote 5, you find this:
5. Hanna J. Over the hump. In: Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures. TV series (USA) 2001 season; #2190.

I kid you not. The justification for human lactose intolerants "easily metabolizing" camel's milk in an article in a medical journal comes from a syndicated television show for kids.

We're beyond surreal here. I can't compete with a guy who brings cute cuddly animals on television for a living. Why would anyone listen to me while they're watching Jack Hanna hold a bottle to the mouth of a baby camel? Awww. But he's not right about this.

And nobody in a medical journal should be citing his television show.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lactose-Free Milk and Lots of It

I mention frequently that I learned I was lactose intolerant back in 1978, long before dairy products made without lactose could be found in any supermarket. That's not to impress you with my age or launch into incoherent screeds about how easy you kids have it today. It's more like sheer astonishment at the changes.

Like this week's shopping trip to a local supermarket. The "dairy" case long ago stopped being merely dairy. Or a case. Today it's a bank of vertical refrigerators, six shelves high. Juices of every possible fruit take up three banks at one end, eggs are at the other. In between are milks. Lots of milk, this being a gigantic store, the flagship of the Wegmans chain and the busiest supermarket I know.

And one whole case, top to bottom, was lactose-free milk. Six full shelves of it. No, seven. The next case over had an additional shelf full. Four separate brands of lactose-free milk were represented there, Lactaid, Real Goodness, Hood, and the Wegmans store brand.

When people ask me why they can't find more varieties of lactose-free dairy items I have to tell them that they simply don't sell. Nothing does. Except lactose-free milk. And that seems to be doing fine. Four brands! I remember the first appearance of a lactose-free milk in a supermarket and the first time I saw two brands competing. They might have taken up a shelf between them. They have been times since when I've seriously wondered if the whole market was going to collapse for lack of buyers.

No longer. Apparently we're in good shape for the foreseeable future.

Now you need to start clamoring for lactose-free ice cream. And then start buying it. Wouldn't it be nice to have even one whole shelf in the frozen section for ourselves?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lactose-Free Recipes

Gourmet magazine recently folded operations with a thud so loud that it made national headlines. What happens to purveyors of the world's fanciest dishes? I guess they start roaming aimlessly across America like the Joads, looking for handouts of truffled nitrogen foam in exchange for chopping wood and sharing a few of their more plebeian recipes with the plainfolk.

How to to explain the appearance of the magazine's Ex-Executive Editor "Doc" Willoughby on the CBS Early Show with, of all things, lactose-free recipes?

The Forbes' 400 loss is our gain. The Early Show website shares five recipes with us, Tuscon Yellow Pepper Soup, Grilled Cornish Hens With Coconut Curry Sauce, Black Rice Pudding, Chocolate Sorbet, and Hazelnut Biscotti, a complete meal from soup to nuts, if a bit heavy on dessert..

This is less generous than one would think, since sorbet and biscotti are virtually always lactose-free so you don't need "Doc" to make 'em so. Still. You try making truffled nitrogen foam over a wood stove.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Allergy Anxiety

Which would be a bigger surprise to you? That 80% of mothers with allergic children "say Halloween causes a great deal of anxiety"? Or that 20% of mothers don't?

The survey, conducted by the website, also found that 20% of moms get so hyper about the holiday that they are thinking about having their children give up trick-or-treating entirely.

Why? Probably because they are uncertain about how much they know and about what to do. As the survey found:

•61 percent of children have been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector; however, only 23 percent of them carry it with them at all times.

•One in five moms is unsure how they feel about their school's emergency plans in place to deal with a severe allergic reaction.

•While many moms feel they have good information on food allergies, they also expressed a clear desire for more: 78 percent of survey respondents say they would benefit from additional information on food allergies and how best to prepare for and treat allergy-related medical emergencies.

I've mentioned before that children and teenagers tend not to carry their auto-injectors with them. This is one of those parenting challenges that no outsider can solve. Getting your kids to carry reminders that they are different is a constant battle.

By now you may be guessing that I'm quoting from a press release that is related to injectors. You are quite correct. This one is by the maker of EpiPens.

Unlike all too many press releases, fortunately, they tone down the hype and focus on helpful advice.
Tips for an Allergy-friendly Halloween

For parents of children with food allergies, monitoring Halloween candy is just one way to avoid an accidental allergic reaction. Stacy DeBroff from Mom Central offers additional tips for enjoying an allergy-free holiday:

•Find Allergy-Free Activities: With a little research, you can find many festive activities right in your own backyard. Take the family pumpkin picking, on a hayride or for a scavenger hunt.

•Bring the Fun to Your Child: Consider hosting your own costume party for your child's friends. Invite everyone over for pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, spooky stories, a scavenger hunt and other Halloween-themed games. This way, your child can still have fun and you can control all the goodies that are being passed out.

For those children who do go trick-or-treating, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) offers these helpful tips:

•Never Go Alone: Always accompany younger children trick-or-treating and have older children go out with friends.

•Inform Others: Make sure all the adults and friends in your group know about your child's food allergies and what to do in an emergency.

•Pack Medication: While out for Halloween, make sure you or your child is carrying an epinephrine auto-injector. Make sure your child's friends or other adults know how to administer this medication.

•Provide Safe Snacks: Provide your close neighbors and even your child's teacher at school with safe treats or even non-food items like stickers that can be given to your child.

•Check the Goodies: Carefully read labels or check the candy company's Web site to make sure the product doesn't contain something that can cause an allergic reaction. It's important to remember that the ingredients of 'fun size' candy bars may differ from the regular-size bars.

•When in Doubt, Throw It Out: If you can't find information on a treat's ingredients or are simply not sure if it's safe, then throw the candy away or stick it in a treat jar that is out of the reach of the child.

•Avoid Snacking: Eating dinner before trick-or-treating might curb your child's urge to sneak goodies from the bag.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food Allergy Tests You Must Avoid

The Food Allergy Initiative has a page on Unproven Diagnostic Tests that includes some familiar targets of mine, such as Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) and IgG Testing.

These tests should be avoided at all costs. Getting a false diagnosis, whether positive or negative, is bad enough. However, some of these tests involve eating the allergen itself and that can precipitate a reaction. As the page says, in bold face type:

None of these tests is recommended for the diagnosis of food allergies, and those that involve the ingestion or injection of allergens may increase the risk of a reaction.

The other tests they warn you about are:
Body Chemical Analysis
This type of test analyzes a sample of your hair, body fluids, or tissue to diagnose a mineral deficiency or confirm the presence of toxic substances. Either of these supposedly leads to food allergies or other diseases. Again, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Cytotoxic Testing
In this test, the white blood cells are extracted from a sample of your blood. Then, samples of the white blood cells are applied to slides that contain dried extracts of suspect foods. A technician views the slides under a microscope and analyzes them for changes that supposedly indicate whether you are allergic to any of those foods. AAAAI has concluded that there is no scientific basis for this test.

A sample of your blood is drawn and cultures of the white blood cells are analyzed for their reactions to up to 300 food allergens or other substances. Studies have shown that this test is not effective in diagnosing food or other allergies. Other questionable diagnostic methods that involve white blood cell analysis are the ALCAT and NuTron tests.

Electrodermal Diagnosis
This test uses a galvanometer (an instrument that detects and measures electric currents) to gauge your body’s resistance when you come in contact with a suspect food. Increased resistance to the electric current is supposed to indicate that you are allergic to the food being tested.

Provocation and Neutralization
These tests involve injecting a solution containing a suspect food under your skin or administering it sublingually (as drops under your tongue). Increasing amounts are given in an effort to provoke a reaction. When symptoms appear, you are given increasingly weaker doses of the solution until your symptoms disappear. The last and weakest dose, which supposedly eliminates your symptoms, is called the “neutralizing dose.” This solution may then be provided as a treatment for your food allergy. Provocation tests are not only ineffective, but increase the risk of an allergic reaction. There is no scientific proof that neutralization can prevent or control a reaction.

Pulse Testing
This test is based on the notion that, if you are allergic to a particular food, your pulse (the rate of your heartbeat) will go up after you eat that food. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

What's really scary is that each time I've written about NAET, about as pure quackery as exists in fake medicine today, somebody always comments approvingly.

If you have questions about these or other possibly questionable allergy tests, contact the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI).

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Make Almond Milk

The Instructables website has a multi-page tutorial on making almond milk.

The comments also have a healthy debate over whether almond skins are healthy. Adding them to your milk is apparently optional.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Lactose Intolerance Rate Depends on Definition

How many people in the U.S. are lactose intolerant (LI)? The number that has been given for the past generation has been about 30 - 50,000,000. That the estimate hasn't changed in 30 or more years should give you an instant clue that we're not talking about real firm counts. It's at best a guess, although you can extrapolate it from census information, as I did in my book Milk Is Not for Every Body: Living with Lactose Intolerance.

The last estimate I've seen for the U.S. population is 307,000,000. That would make about 10 - 16% of the population LI.

If you want a better percentage, Nutrition Today published Prevalence of Self-reported Lactose Intolerance in a Multiethnic Sample of Adults by Theresa A. Nicklas et al., September/October 2009 - Volume 44 - Issue 5 - pp 222-227 doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e3181b9caa6.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, between 30 and 50 million Americans have the potential for lactose-intolerance symptoms. However, lactose-intolerance prevalence rates in practical life settings may be lower than originally suggested. The goal of this study was to determine the prevalence of self-reported lactose intolerance among a national sample of European American (EA), African American (AA), and Hispanic American (HA) adults.

A nationally representative sample of randomly generated telephone numbers was purchased from a commercial sample provider. A nationally representative sample of randomly selected telephone numbers were called from the Survey Research Unit's Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing facility at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Interviews were completed by a total of 1,084 respondents between the ages of 19 and 70 years with 486 EAs, 355 AAs, and 243 HAs. The response rate was 24.2%, and the cooperation rate was 34.2%.

The age-adjusted lactose-intolerance prevalence estimates were 7.72%, 19.50%, and 10.05% for EAs, AAs, and HAs, respectively. For all respondents in the sample, the crude and age-adjusted self-reported lactose-intolerance prevalence rates were 13.38% and 12.04%, respectively.

These results indicate that the prevalence of perceived lactose intolerance is significantly lower than what has been previously estimated. Health professionals need to be aware of the misrepresentation of currently estimated lactose-intolerance rates and should continue to encourage individuals with lactose intolerance to consume dairy foods first to help meet key nutrient recommendations with proper guidance and education.

Several items from this abstract need comment.

The term lactose intolerance has three overlapping but separate definitions. The first is that you get the standard symptoms - gas, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea - after eating or drinking dairy. The second is reacting positively to a lactose intolerance test. The third is having the gene that stops the production of lactase at some time in your life.

That third definition is the one that is normally used to estimate how many Americans are LI. It has to be. There has never been before this a good large-scale study of the issue. And only a small percentage of Americans have ever had a formal lactose tolerance test, certainly nothing like the tens of millions.

Although the full paper is not online so I haven't yet been able to read it, I have to assume that most respondents considered themselves LI because they get - or believe they get - symptoms from dairy products. That's almost certainly a different and much smaller population than those whose ethnic heritage makes them likely to stop producing lactase.

And that's probably why the numbers are being presented as "significantly lower." Here the abstract alone is misleading. A 13% average is obviously not lower than an estimate of 10 - 16%.

However, both Hispanics and African-Americans have always been considered to be groups with very high likelihoods of carrying the LI gene. Estimates range more in the 50 - 80% vicinity than the 10 - 20% actually found.

Genetically that's still likely true. Many earlier studies have already shown the percentage of people who actively get symptoms from dairy is much lower than the genetics would indicate. Those who have little or no dairy in their normal diets or who generally eat low-lactose products like cheese or butter are less likely to have symptoms. We simply don't know what the gap is between definition 1 and definition 3.

Unless we do now. Or do we? If I'm reading that abstract correctly it took over 13,000 phone calls to get the 1084 people to complete the survey. (One in 4 responded and only one in 3 of those cooperated. So you need 12 times as many calls to get that number of completions.) Without a better view of the demographics of the final sample it's hard to know how representative the final group actually was.

An interesting survey. It will need close checking, though, to see if there is less here than meets the eye.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gluten-Free Asian and European Travel Cards

Translation cards - cards with the words, phrases, and questions you need to know about food sensitivities in other languages - are a handy travel item. I've written about the SelectWisely firm before, in both Food Sensitivities Translation Cards and in Food and Travel Translation Cards.

They're back in the news with a new offering, as the title indicates, Gluten-Free Asian and European Travel Cards.

The inevitable press release tells us more.

The new gluten-free cards have been developed to help people with gluten intolerance improve communication when dining and purchasing meals. All of the cards feature English text describing what foods to avoid along with a picture of a stalk of wheat within the international prohibitory sign (red circle and slash). The European cards also have the English text translated into Spanish, French and Italian. The Asian cards have the English text translated into Chinese, Japanese and Thai. The card is laminated, simple to use and easy to carry, allowing travelers to keep them in their pocket or wallet to use when they are ordering meals at restaurants.
... All cards have English text, a picture and multiple language text allowing restaurant wait staff and kitchen staff who speak different languages to understand.

About the allergy and medical translation cards:
22 types of cards are currently available in the following categories:

Food Allergies
Gluten-free/Celiac Disease
Diabetes Emergency and Pharmacy
Asthma Emergency
Lactose Intolerance
Penicillin Allergy
Low-salt Diet
Vegetarian and Vegan
General Emergency
Special Orders

15 common languages are available (English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc), plus an additional 40 languages through our Special Order program. The Special Order program provides translations for unique food allergies and medical conditions in less common languages (Catalan, Vietnamese, Khmer, Croatian, Czech, Laotian and more).

Over 130 common food allergens are available including nuts, peanuts, wheat, milk, shellfish, soy, sesame and others. Additional non-food allergens are available for translation including latex, sulfites, MSG, bee stings and penicillin.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog

Many, many, many months in the making, I can finally announce the official publication of my new book, whose full title is Planet Lactose: Reports from the worlds of lactose intolerance, milk allergies, and dairy-free alternatives [The Best of The Planet Lactose Blog, volume 1 (2005-2008)].

As the title indicates, I've taken the best posts on the blog and put them into a handy trade paperback book. Blogs are wonderful things for daily updates and specific searches, but nothing beats a book to collect and organize information to make the whole more than the sum of the parts. You can quickly turn to your greatest subject of interest, whether lactose intolerance, veganism, baby feeding issues, or cookbooks, and find a whole chapterful of posts that should capture your attention.

The cost of Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog is a mere $16.00 and postage is free. For that you get a thick slab of a book, 376 pages covering almost 250 topics, and weighing more than a pound.

Buying the book is just as easy. I've set up a website for Planet Lactose Publishing. On the Purchase Books page, you can order Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog. My collection of f&sf short stories, Tyrannosaur Faire, is also available for purchase there. All purchases need to be made through PayPal.If that's not possible for you, or if you live outside the U.S. or Canada, then go to the Contact page for information on sending checks or the equivalent.

As you probably know all too well, there are few books that talk about living dairy-free. Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog packs more and varied information about all things non-dairy than any other book available today. It's a book I'm proud of. I hope you'll spread the word.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Daiya Vegan "Cheese"

Daiya is a vegan cheese substitute that is making inroads into restaurants and stores. It's big distinction is that instead of soy or rice or the usual bases, Daiya uses tapioca* and/or arrowroot flours. They claim that this makes it unusually allergen-free.

What is Daiya?
Daiya is a revolutionary new dairy-free vegan cheese that tastes, shreds, melts and stretches like dairy based cheese. Daiya is not made with casein, the protein found in dairy products or soy, common to many other non-dairy cheese alternatives. In fact, Daiya does not contain any common allergens, animal products or cholesterol. Daiya is made with nutritious planted-based ingredients and is:

▪ 33% less fat than dairy-based cheese with equivalent[sic] attributes
▪ Cholesterol free
▪ Trans Fat free
▪ Dairy free
▪ Free of all animal products (Vegan and Parve)
▪ Free of common allergens including:
▪ Soy, Casein, Lactose, Gluten, Egg, Wheat, Barley, Corn, Whey, Rice, and Nuts
▪ Free of Artificial Ingredients
▪ Free of Preservatives
▪ Free of Hormones & Antibiotics
▪ An excellent source of a naturally occurring vegan vitamin B-12 as well as an excellent source of B vitamins in general

The pizza chain is adding Daiya cheese to its menu to complement its gluten-free crusts.

You can also buy it at selected Whole Foods stores as well as online. Check their where to find Daiya page.

*UPDATE: That used to say cassava flour but the ingredients now [11/27/2011] say that tapioca flour is used instead.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Desensitization Injections Cured Boy's Milk Allergy

Back in August I posted about a series of videos made by the Children's Hospital Boston. The videos followed the progress of eleven-year-old Eric Nasuti as he underwent a series of injections to try to desensitize him to the 15 foods he was born allergic to.

The last in the eight-part series has now been posted. Eric tries drinking a full eight-ounce glass of milk. Will he be cured? Will he be rewarded with a pizza party?

Hint. They posted the video. What do you think? I'm writing this before I'm even bothering to watch it.

Cynical as I am about public relations exercises, the fact that these injections worked in this trial is very exciting news. There are bunches of links of the page of the video with more information for parents. We'll just have to see how fast they can go from a small trial to a larger rollout.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Milks" Galore: Soy, Rice, Almond, and Hemp

Over at the Los Angeles Times, Elena Conis writes an amazing piece comparing cow's milk and goat's milk to a wide array of milk substitutes, soy "milk", rice "milk", almond "milk", and hemp "milk."

It's amazing for two big reasons. One is that no errors pop out at me the way they normally do in articles written by reporters. The second is that it's dated Oct. 19, 2009, today being Oct. 17, 2009. Sunday paper articles often come out early, but Monday articles? Tis truly strange.

Conis also glancingly covers most of the major claims made by the various sides in the issues and looks at the medical studies on them. Most of what she says is that there isn't much good evidence either way for milk or the various milk substitutes being globally harmful or helpful. You can drink them without fears but they're not a cure-all. That's also the right approach to take.

The link goes to the single page version of the article. There is also a separate nutrient breakdown comparison chart accompanying the article.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Dairy-Free Chocolates Are Healthier

Chocolate has sometimes been mentioned as a healthy food. Turns out it's not all chocolates. They have to be... Dairy-Free.

That's the claim made by this Premium Health News Service story by Lisa Tsakos of I found it on the website of an Arkansas television station.

Q. Is chocolate actually healthy? I've heard a lot about the antioxidant properties of chocolate.

A: The antioxidants (polyphenols) in chocolate are very powerful -- as long as no dairy has been added. Research shows the health benefits of chocolate (or cacao) are negated with the addition of dairy. Bottom line: Yes, dairy-free chocolate can be healthy (the more antioxidants the better), however, those same nutrients can be found in tea and red grapes. So as much as we'd like to think of chocolate as an "essential" food ... oh, go ahead, eat it anyway.

Is this true? Are there any studies on this?

Who cares? I love dark chocolate! (70-72% cocoa powder content is best.) Do you think I'm going to even try to disprove such a wonderful report? Facts that you want to hear are always true!

Fortunately for my morals and ethics, Lisa Tsakos' contention is backed up by some scientific research.

A story by Daniel J. DeNoon on WebMD in 2003 reported on an Italian study.
Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 [2003] issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

"Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate."

Nature is one of the world's premier science journals. Did I mention that they printed a story of mine on their back page "Futures" section that features one page science fiction hard science stories? It's in the September 24, 2009 issue for those with access to bigger libraries. (Or you can buy it as part of my collection of short stories Tyrannosaur Faire. Its title is "A Kiss Isn't Just a Kiss".) Why didn't I tell you about it sooner? Because I didn't know when the story was going to be published and I only found out about it when they sent me an issue - an issue that didn't arrive until the next week's issue was already out.)

Digression, Sorry.

I have to point out that this study was on a grand total of 12 people and only tested their blood an hour after eating so there's no way of knowing whether any long-term good was done. reported on a different study from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in 2005. The ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The researchers found natural cocoa powders contained the highest levels of TAC and procyanidins, which were found to be the dominant antioxidant in chocolates. Milk chocolates, which contain the least amount of cocoa solids, had the lowest TAC and procyanidin levels. Baking chocolates contained fewer procyanidins, because they contained more fat (50-60 percent) than natural cocoa. Alkalinization, used to reduce the acidity and raise the pH of cocoa, such as Dutch chocolates, was found to markedly reduce procyanidin content. Researchers concluded that chocolates containing higher amounts of cocoa ingredients have higher procyanidin contents, therefore, higher antioxidant capacities.

Nine major manufacturers provided commercially available chocolate and cocoa samples and the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided its Standard Reference chocolate for analysis. The study was partially funded by a grant from the American Cocoa Research Institute.

Wait. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a "Standard Reference Chocolate"? Why isn't this better known? Why aren't there public tours?

Anyway, other research indicates that the chocolate should be at least 70% cocoa for best results, a nice bittersweet amount. (I find that anything over 80% is too bitter, but I'm extremely sensitive to bitter tastes.) Remember that the rest of the chocolate will be fat, so don't overindulge.

There are zillions of dark chocolate bars on the market. I've tried many and found that they are remarkably different from one another. Unfortunately, the more expensive ones really are better. You can get good results inside a good supermarket if you explore the shelves carefully and sample the brands. If the bar doesn't tell you the cocoa percentage you can assume that it isn't high enough.

Dark chocolate. Daily. Have a piece while checking out my blog. Both are proven to be good for your health.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

'Ntolerance Allergy Free Store

'Ntolerance. Not a typo. A pun. It's a store that sells allergy free foods. As usual it was started and is still run today by people who have a personal connection to allergies. Sue and Mark Egbers founded the store in 2004 after discovering that their son Matthew had coeliac disease. It was taken over by Heather Faulkner, herself a coeliac, in 2008.

What I found really cool about the place - and the reason I'm talking about it here when I don't mention the dozens of other local shops that sell allergy-free foods - is the location. Pukekohe. That's in South Auckland. Which is in New Zealand.

I ran across the shop in an article by Virin Gomber on the Auckland Business to Business website. It caught my eye. I used to write similar profiles of local stores and companies for a paper called Business to Business Newsletter. I'd take off during my lunch hour at work, do a 45 minute interview, and write it out at home.

I'd never heard of a store that sold only allergy-free foods back then in the 1980s. I don't think Rochester has such a store today, although it has a couple of gluten-free bakeries. These specialty stores find it difficult to compete against large organic and natural food stores that carry a wider range of products as well as supermarkets that have huge natural food sections of their own.

Even so, most larger American cities, not to mention college towns that are smaller but have a targeted and interested population, have specialty free-from food stores today.

New Zealand does too, but 'Ntolerance is the only store that sells nothing but allergy free products that I can find. (Apologies if I missed any, but I count on your writing in and correcting me.) It's a tough business. In fact, the Egbers, who had started the store in an industrial area - presumably because costs and rents are typically much lower there - were planning to shut the store down. Faulkner moved the store to a site that had better visibility and higher foot traffic. It worked.

Managing the business on her own at the age of 55 - looking after the supplies, sales, customers’ needs, working six days a week and taking care of her own health condition – she has done exceptionally well breaking even just one year into this business. And she has achieved it even while increasing the product range at the shop.

The website also has changed to better suit customers' needs.
The range of products sold at the shop includes gluten free, dairy free, nut free, egg free, soy free and sugar free foods. Besides retail sales, customers can even order online and get the items couriered to them. The products on the website have colour codes underneath them to make identification easier, to denote suitability for different allergies / intolerances.

These specialty businesses aimed at us, our small slice of the market, can survive only if we patronize them rather than their competitors. Faulkner's success seems to be well deserved for her hard work. Yesterday I wrote about the similar Dairy Free Market, a new online site that is wading into the same waters.

Find these stores. Test them out. See how well they meet your needs. Tell them what you'd like and where they need to improve. The better they are, the longer they'll last and the more satisfaction you'll get from them. And that will help all of us.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Introducing Dairy Free Market

Jeff Eder sent me his press release announcing the creation of an online store that sells nothing but dairy-free products, the Dairy Free Market.

An estimated 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. With them in mind, Free-from Foods, LLC announces the opening of Dairy Free Market at The online food store exclusively sells food without dairy, including baking ingredients and mixes, cereal, cheese alternatives, non-dairy chocolate, cookies and snack/energy bars.

Many products sold are also free from other common allergens, such as egg, gluten, nut and soy – perfect for anyone with a food allergy, intolerance, or special diet (e.g., celiac, gluten-free/casein-free, kosher and vegan).

"Our site helps take the guesswork out of grocery shopping," said Founder Jeff Eder, who himself is lactose and potato intolerant. "I created Dairy Free Market for people like me, who want to buy foods that meet their dietary needs without the hassle of shopping at multiple stores, or the frustration of settling for the limited choices on local grocery shelves."

The site offers brands such as Cherrybrook Kitchen, Enjoy Life Foods, NuGo and Road's End Organics - popular among adults and children alike.

Dairy Free Market ships everywhere in the U.S. and currently offers free shipping on orders over $100.

Experience a taste of food freedom at

While all the foods offered are dairy-free, you can also click to bring up those foods which are also egg free, gluten free, nut free, potato free, soy free, sugar free, kid friendly, kosher, organic, or vegan. No wonder Eder's parent company is called Free-from Foods.

As an online company shipping will be crucial. Here are the site's policies.
Most orders ship within two business days from the date of purchase. We ship to any location in the United States via all major commercial shipping companies. You will receive a tracking number for your shipment once your order is complete.

For a quote on shipping outside North America, contact us at

All sales on are final – unless items were damaged during shipment or they expired before your purchase date. In those instances, items that are received by no later than ten days from the date of purchase are eligible for full refund.

Have questions about your order? Contact us at


You can read an interview with Eder on the Avoiding Milk Blog.
How do you go about selecting products for your store, what standards do you have?
Dairy Free Market selects dairy free foods that fall into a number of different product (cookies, snack bars, baking ingredients, chocolate, etc.) and lifestyle categories (vegan, kosher, organic, gluten-free casein-free, free from other allergens, etc.) and we therefore spend a good deal of time talking to manufacturers to find the latest and greatest dairy free products out there and hope to share as many of them with our customers as soon as possible. However, the primary requirement of all items sold by Dairy Free Market is that they must not contain dairy of any kind (no lactose, no casein, no whey). In some cases, the products we sell may have been made in the same facility or on the same equipment as milk products (a common issue in the dairy free world), however, we try to minimize those cases and if they do exist, we make those instances clear to customers.

Your selection of foods has been steadily expanding. What new products can we expect to see in your store?
In the coming months, Dairy Free Market will be adding many more dairy free baking mixes and ingredients, some newcomers to the dairy free snack bar world, a sugar free line featuring brands such as Aunt Gussie’s and showcasing the gluten-free products of Nana’s Cookie Company. Dairy Free Market will also be venturing into carrying a line of dairy free cheese! Finally, as we approach Halloween, Dairy Free Market will be featuring Enjoy Life Foods Choco Boom dairy free chocolate bars, as well as NuGo Crispy Cat candy bars - perfect for the non-dairy trick-or-treater!

That Eder will be adding more products is good news. What causes most of these ventures to fail is the lack of choice, especially for true dairy alternatives rather than products like cookies or pasta which are relatively easy to find dairy-free.

Other minor problems that might get fixed include the inability to search for products that are free of multiple allergens and a lack of an ingredients listing on some foods. Most shopping sites evolve as customers comment on exactly what they'd like to see, so if you try them out offer any helpful hints.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Simple Food Movement

Michael Pollen, the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, has a number of rules, or rules of thumb, that he suggests people who want good, healthy food should follow.

One of them suggests suggests "avoiding products with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce."

Those extra ingredients are the ones normally found in processed food, which is pretty much every food that is found in a can, box, or container. The ones that fill up all the aisles in all the supermarkets of the world. Ingredients you can't pronounce may be emulsifiers, or stabilizers, or preservatives. Although sometimes they are vitamins or probiotics or good old fashioned sodium bicarbonate.

Pollen is not one of the crazies who runs around screaming that "chemicals" are in our foods. As sodium bicarbonate proves, everything, even familiar ingredients found in every kitchen, is a chemical and a chemical name doesn't mean something dangerous or scary. Pollen is an enemy of large agribusiness practices and of the fast food lifestyle Americans practice.

He has followers. As Janet Helm reported in the Chicago Tribune, corporations, ever sensitive to trends and fads, are jumping on the "Simple" bandwagon, featuring foods like:

Five, the new line of Haagen-Dazs ice cream that's made with only five ingredients -- including well-known kitchen staples (milk, cream, sugar and eggs). Then, Pillsbury introduced Simply cookies that are based on a similar premise: "Made just like you would make at home, same ingredients, same process."

Many food companies are scrambling to simplify ingredient lists and find naturally sourced alternatives to create what has been dubbed a "clean label." And when they do, they proudly declare "no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives" on the front of the package. That has become one of the most popular claims made by new foods and beverages, according to the market research firm Mintel.

I'm torn on the issue. I don't care about the trendy foods. They won't last. Literally so. Foods without preservatives spoil faster, have to be made in smaller batches, cost more, and can't sit for months on kitchen shelves. That's why companies started putting preservatives into foods in the first place. I absolutely guarantee that they'll be doing so next year after this trend has passed.

The larger trend that includes the "locavore" movement - eating foods grown locally - as well as fresh foods, more fruits and vegetables, and whole grain foods will likely take hold of a segment of the market. There's not much to complain about here. I've been eating locally raised organic meats, for example, and they are far tastier than the normal supermarket varieties, even though they are available at supermarkets as well from farm markets.

How do local farms, small bakeries, and specialty marketeers manage to feed the 300,000,000 people in this country? They don't. They can't. Programs have been started in Detroit and New York to get fresh produce into inner cities, areas in which supermarkets and groceries have smaller and more expensive selections than anything suburbanites will see at their worst stores. These worthy efforts aren't more than a dent in the larger problem. The people most in need have the least opportunity. The Simple movement will be adopted most enthusiastically by the well-to-do. Just what we need. Another large wedge between classes.

Of far more importance to our small community is the simple fact that creating dairy-free and other specialty items for people who avoid some of the commonest "simple" ingredients in our cooking lexicon is almost impossible to do with just a few ingredients. Getting similar taste, texture, and "mouthfeel" requires a set of ingredients to imitate the originals. Those ingredients probably include emulsifiers and thickeners. And because they are made in small batches with the full expectation that they won't fly off the shelves like Oreos or Spam, they need the preservatives to keep them from rotting in the package.

The Simple movement doesn't address our special needs. Adding more free fruit and vegetables to our diets may be sound advice but "well-known kitchen staples" like milk, cream, and eggs aren't found in all our kitchens. Unless we plan to cook and bake every item we eat, we will rely on packaged foods and those packaged foods will not be Simple.

Don't eat just Simple. Eat Smart. Smart is what is right and best for you. Smart always wins.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

8 Holiday Allergy Tips

For someone who grew up in the 1950s there's an illicit thrill in digesting the Reader's Digest. No, not that kind of digesting. Well, the same root word. Making smaller. Like lactase digests lactose by cutting it in half, into glucose and galactose.

Anyway, the good gray RD, now in color, presented 8 Fall Holiday Tips for Those with Food Allergies, abstracted from a probably longer piece put out by The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

So here, slightly shortened even further, are tonight's Top Eight:

1. Tricks and treats: Purchase treats that your child can enjoy safely, and swap them for treats with allergens after trick-or-treating. Send candy your child can consume to school parties or send non-food goodies such as Halloween stickers.

2. Be the class baker ... to ensure there will be foods available your child can enjoy.

3. Inform your guests: Let guests know that you or your child have dietary restrictions, and offer to let them bring holiday themed plates, cups or napkins, rather than food.

4. Give your host a heads-up: If you'll be attending holiday festivities away from home, let your host know about your food allergy. Offer to bring safe foods for you and others to enjoy.

5. Don't overlook the turkey: Basted or self-basting turkeys can include common allergens such as soy, wheat and dairy. [A] turkey labeled "natural," ... should contain nothing but turkey and, perhaps, water.

6. Hang on to food labels: ... Keep the ingredient labels from the food you are serving for allergic guests to review before digging in.

7. Carry medications: Always have emergency medications on hand just in case.

8. Discuss strategies with your allergist: ... Your allergist also can help you and your child become "label detectives" so you both know what ingredients to watch out for.

For more information about allergies and asthma, and to find an allergist near you visit

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anti-Milk Nonsense: The Dumbth List

Although it's usually attributed to Mark Twain, it was really Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on."

I feel the same about the Internet and stupidity. Or Dumbth, as Steve Allen once called it. Just two weeks ago yet another deluded vegan made my blood pressure soar by posting - in a college newspaper, no less - that:

Humans are the only animals on the planet that drink another animal’s milk. Thus, by definition, drinking cows’ milk is extremely unnatural.

You can't approach that statement. It makes no sense from any direction. There are no foods that humans are designed to eat. Not one. They're omnivores, eating every digestible plant or animal part on the planet. And the list of what humans do that other animals don't would fill the Internet. Because it is the Internet.

How could you look yourself in the mirror after saying that? Isn't reason itself one of humanity's unique attributes?

Number two on the Dumbth list is harder to track. Here's my nominee for tonight, mostly because I just read it online and I haven't calmed down yet.
"Margarine is but one molecule from being plastic."

You need to know a little something to understand just how incredibly dumb that statement is. Not much. A grade schooler with a decent science teacher would make a face at an adult spouting that line. I could wish more decent science teachers existed in the world.

Margarine, of course, is a concoction. It's no more a single thing than butter is a single thing. Butter is mostly animal fat with a sprinkling of animal protein and sugar (our old friend lactose). Margarine imitates butter by substituting vegetable oil and water for the animal fat. The rest is a sprinkling of preservatives, stabilizers, and colorants. Nobody denies that margarine is artificial. But it's artificial in the same way a cake is artificial. Cakes don't grow. They are put together from a recipe.

The whole "one molecule away" business is just as bad. Lactose is made out of two simpler sugars, glucose and galactose. The chemical formula for glucose is C6H12O6. The chemical formula for galactose is C6H12O6. Yes, they are chemically identical. They are structured differently and that gives them different properties. The sugar called maltose is composed of a glucose plus a glucose. Starches are composed of strings of glucoses. Identical, but structured differently. Chemicals - and everything is a chemical or a conglomeration of chemicals - can vary tremendously even if their molecules or atoms are the same. Being one molecule away is meaningless. It's like saying that the U.S. is one ocean away from Europe. traces the origin of this bit of idiocy back to a 1999 email. The line is too good to kept to only one food. They collected some of the variants.:
I was told that the difference between Cool Whip and Styrofoam is one molecule... is this true???

Is velveeta processed cheese food really one molecule different from plastic?

heard that Pam spray is 1 molecule away from plastic and is therefore dangerous??

I am tired of hearing my husband say that Cheez Whiz is only 2 ingredients different from garbage bags. Can you please help me set him straight?

Happy to set him straight, my dear.

If you have other examples of high-level dumbth about dairy, share them. Let's see if we can create a debunkers' top ten.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Food Detective" Home Allergy Test Flunks

Intolerances are not the same as allergies. Lactose intolerance is defined as having symptoms because of the body's inability to digest the lactose sugar in milk. A milk allergy is caused by antibodies that react to the proteins in dairy products. They are totally different. I know that. If you've been reading this blog from more than about five minutes you know that.

And the makers of the "Food Detective™, the world’s first food intolerance self test" kit know that. They have a whole page devoted to the difference.

And yet they keep calling the Food Detective a food intolerance kit. It isn't. It tests for protein antibody reactions. Not the same.

Why make a big deal of this? Many people, especially in the UK where the Food Detective is based, confuse the terms or even use them interchangeably. But I'm cynical. And as their own food intolerance page says, as many as 45% of the population of the UK may have food intolerances, but only 2.5% have food allergies. Now which set would you rather your marketing department pitch your product to?

And that's assuming that the product can possibly work as claimed. You take a mere pinprick of blood and put it into the tiny test tube in the kit. Pour on some developer and in 40 minutes you'll know if you have allergies to any of the following:

Corn, Durum Wheat, Gluten, Oats, Rice, Rye, Wheat.

Nuts & Beans
Almond, Brazil Nut, Cashew, Cocoa Bean, Peanut, Legume Mix (pea, lentil, haricot),
Soya Bean, Walnut.

Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Pork.

Freshwater Fish Mix (salmon, trout), Shellfish Mix (shrimp, prawn, crab, lobster, mussel), Tuna, White Fish Mix (haddock, cod, plaice)

Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrot, Celery, Cucumber, Leek, Peppers (red, green, yellow), Potato.

Apple, Blackcurrant, Grapefruit, Melon Mix (cantaloupe, water melon), Olive, Orange & Lemon, Strawberry, Tomato

Egg (whole), Cow's Milk, Garlic, Ginger, Mushroom, Tea, Yeast

That's amazing. Too good to be true? Well, I'm always a skeptic.

You see, the makers of Food Detective are Cambridge Nutritional Sciences CNS), which has done this testing for several years if you mail them a sample of your blood. And the British newspapers have not been kind to CNS.

In You and Yours on Which? Investigation into Food Intolerance Tests, Dr. Mike Walker of CNS reveals that the tests don't test for IgE, the antibody that causes true allergies. It tests for IgG, an antibody which causes hypersensitivities. Some researchers do lump the various antibody reactions together as allergies, some don't. All, to my knowledge, agree that only IgE reactions cause the anaphylactic reactions that are the ones to take most seriously.

Tests on similar testing kits have a large fail sign pasted on them. As Jenny Hope reported in The Daily Mail:
The tests found a total of 183 intolerances, even though the researchers had just one medically confirmed allergy and one already recognized food intolerance between them.

Different test results were produced from identical blood and hair samples sent to the same company under different names. There was little or no overlap of test results from different companies for the same researcher.

A panel of medical specialists and a dietician concluded that none of the tests, which cost between £45 and £275, had ' diagnostic value' for genuine allergies or intolerances.

It's nice to think that one tiny pinprick of blood can tell you what foods not to eat. It's also too good to be true.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Lactose Can Kill... and Other Misleading Headlines

A very, very bizarre story caught my eye. The story of the lactose that killed a woman.

Absolutely true, but also absolutely not anything that will affect you. Instead, it's a tragedy that contains a warning to all people who seek to take medications in unapproved, unauthorized, and dangerous variations. And I'm also using it as an object lesson in the way that stories can be slanted to take information and facts totally out of context to produce shocking but misleading headlines.

The best version of the story comes from the site

The story starts with the worldwide fears of a deadly flu outbreak. The H1N1 virus hit earlier this year, a virus that then seemed to be either new or a warped version of a older known killer version of the flu. While most cases were mild, with the most serious effects on those with what the media terms "pre-existing causes," patients were understandably scared and demanded relief, if not cures. With a vaccine not yet available, the only solution was antibiotics, specifically Tamiflu and Relenza.

Relenza, made by industry giant GlaxoSmithKline, is not a pill or a shot. Instead, it is a powder that is inhaled via the mouth through a special device the company calls a Diskhaler.

You would think that the existence of a special device would be enough of a warning sign in and of itself. Who would take the powder and find a totally different and unauthorized way of using it?

Yet such were the fears sent up by the flu outbreak that some people who apparently could not use their inhalers made up their own rules.

Glaxo has heard reports of its powdered form of Relenza being removed from its packaging, dissolving it in water, and converting it into a fine mist, a process called nebulization, officials said. Doctors may be modifying the composition of the drug in order to give it to patients who cannot take oral medications or inhale the drug. However, nebulization is not recommended for administering Relenza Inhalation Powder, the FDA said.

“The safety, effectiveness, and stability of zanamivir (Relenza) use by nebulization have not been established,” the FDA warned.

Relenza Inhalation Powder is a combination of zanamivir and a lactose drug carrier. When subjected to nebulization, lactose sugar in the product can prevent mechanical ventilator equipment from working properly, the FDA cautioned.

A pregnant woman - talk about pre-existing conditions - outside the U.S. used this nebulized powder for three days in a mechanical ventilator. As I've frequently noted, lactose - mostly tasteless and non-reactive - is used as a filler, coater, sweetener, and sealer in hundreds in medications.

Tragically, the lactose, never intended for use in this form or format, blocked the ventilator and the woman died. The FDA is contacting health care professionals to warn them against nebulization of Relenza.

I've also written about misguided parents feeding their infants soy "milk" instead of soy formula, leading to their deaths. That's similar to this case. Neither soy nor lactose is deadly. Totally inappropriate and improper use of them, of almost anything taken into the body, had serious consequences.

A bizarre tragedy. And a lesson.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

British Mom Markets Dairy-Free Desserts

I've done so many stories on moms who have created cookbooks or foods or entire stores based on their need to experiment with recipes for their allergic kids that I could probably fill this whole post with links.

Probably the biggest success story of them all was Patricia Wheway, creator of a whole line of free-from foods for a British supermarket chain.

Kristy Henshaw is meeting with similar success on a smaller scale. On the Lancashire Evening Post website, Melanie Wallwork reported that Kristy:

created a frozen, dairy-free dessert which is low in calories, boosts the immune system and can be enjoyed by diabetics and people with allergies.

The mother-of-one came up with the idea for desserts Coconuka and Coconice after struggling to find one suitable for her dairy-intolerant son Jacob, aged three.

The desserts use "a mix of brown rice milk, coconut oil, New Zealand Manuka honey and Echinacea – all known for their health giving properties. Coconice, a vegan alternative, is sweetened with fruit extracts and comes in three flavours, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla."

Those are similar to the several frozen desserts made with coconut milk that have been introduced in the U.S. over the past couple of years. It's a guarantee that the UK market will see many more coconut milk frozen desserts. It's the hottest new fad in the dairy-free world.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"The King of Farts"

I've mentioned Dr. Michael Levitt, the researcher who decided to dedicate his career to an an area of science and medicine that no one else wanted to approach, the study of farts and farting.

His son is Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame, whose blog appears on the New York Times website. He wrote about his father this week, and about how he got the title "King of Farts."

Or did he?

It all starts with Oui magazine — a “gentleman’s” magazine that was all the rage in the 1970’s. They caught wind of some of my father’s research. In particular, my father had a patient who was severely lactose intolerant (before people really knew what that was). Anyway, my Dad figured out that milk led this man to have terrible gas. So in the name of research, my Dad put him on a milk-only diet for a few days and told him to count the number of times he farted. My Dad got a nice academic publication out of it; the man applied to the Guinness Book of World Records, but because there was no witness, they wouldn’t include his superhuman output in the book. It was this patient upon whom Oui magazine bestowed the title the “King of Farts.”

Eventually, however, the patient’s time in the sun would fade, and my father would come to be known as the king. It is not clear how or when this happened, but it is obviously still an issue of great sensitivity to him. Rarely have I seen my Dad angrier than the time a reporter referred to him as the “self-proclaimed King of Farts.” My father bellowed, “That title was given to me!”

Funny as this is, I can't help finding a previous week's column even funnier. Or at the least the comments section.

Levitt asked his readers to name the magazine in which the title was bestowed. If you scroll through the comments you'll see that Dr. Michael gave away the answer in comment #40. And people still kept making guesses.

Oh, Internet. This is why I hate you as much as I love you.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Blogger Rules? My Standards Are Higher.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced new and stricter regulations on bloggers, to take effect on December 1, 2009.

David Colker wrote the quick version of the rules in the Los Angeles Times.

A blogger who reviews a product -- but leaves out the fact that he or she got a payment, high-value gift or free vacation to write the review -- could run afoul of new federal regulations on advertising. ...

Bloggers are mentioned several times in the 81-page revisions. "The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement," said the agency in a release. "Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service."

A blogger can, however, accept a free sample of a product for review purposes without disclosure, "provided that the product itself does not have such a high value that would make its receipt material (e.g., a car)," according to the revised rules.

There's nothing in the rules that specifies how the disclosure must be made. "That's left up to the endorser," said Richard Cleland, assistant director of the FTC's division of advertising practices. "It can be a banner, part of the review. The only requirement is that it be clear and conspicuous."

Here are my rules. Information sharing only. No endorsements. No favoritism. No trading space for products. Criticism or praise only as warranted. No holding back.

If a firm sends me information about a product I'll share it, but I'll always tell you where that information comes from. I tell you where all my information comes from. There is always a reference, a cite, or a link.

My opinions are my own, informed by thirty years of experience in the field. I don't normally review products, because the tastes of each person are too varied. I'll link to a review if it usefully compares several interesting products, but that's for general background information. You need to decide about tastes for yourself.

These new rules won't have a major impact on bloggers. The FTC can't monitor tens of millions of blogs. It will take action only on the worst offenders that are reported to them.

Nothing about the Planet Lactose blog will change because I'm already doing more than the rules call for. It's stay that way. I promise.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Vegan Month of Food

For several years, thousands of writers across the country have bent their minds and their keyboards trying to finish an entire 50,000 word novel during the month of November, or National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo.

In 2007 vegans bloggers have started their personalized variant, Vegan Month of Food, or VeganMoFo. Ho Ho. [Disclaimer: Hostess Ho Ho's are not vegan.]

The Vegan Month is October, so I'm getting this news to you a few days late. Somehow that's appropriate for a daily blogger. It's harder than you think, vegans!

Sorry. October 1 was World Vegetarian Day and the first day of World Vegetarian Month, apparently to give people time to get the dairy out of their systems before November 1, or World Vegan Day, the start of World Vegan Month, rolls around.

Anyway, you can find the nondairy details in an article by Stephen Hui on

Inspired by National Novel Writing Month, VeganMoFo was started in 2007 by celebrated vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the New York City-based author of Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes That Rule.

Moskowitz explains how VeganMoFo works in a September 18 post on the Post Punk Kitchen Blog:
The idea is to write as much as you can for the month of October about vegan food. The blog entries can be about anything food related - your love of tongs, your top secret tofu pressing techniques, the first time your mom cooked vegan for you, vegan options in Timbuktu - you get the idea. There is no strict guideline for how much you have to write, but we shoot for about 20 times a month, or every weekday.

You can find a long, long list of participants on Kittee's vegan blog KitteeKake.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Fiber Enriched Lactose-Free Milk Passes Test

Lactose is a sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates affect insulin levels, and are therefore a concern for diabetics.

So what about lactose-free milks? In normal commercial lactose-free milk the lactose is not physically removed from the milk. It is broken down - digested - into the simple sugars glucose and galactose. So the sugar problem remains.

What if fiber were added to the milk? Could that make a positive difference?

Apparently it can, judging by a report that was just published in the Journal of Nutrition, 2009 Oct 1;8(1):45. [Epub ahead of print]

"Effects of a fibre enriched milk-drink on insulin and glucose levels in healthy subjects," by Lummela N, Kekkonen RA, Jauhiainen T, Pilvi TK, Tuure T, Jarvenpaa S, Eriksson JG, Korpela R.

Here's the abstract:

BACKGROUND: The glycaemic response to foods is dependent on the quality and content of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in the form of dietary fibre have favourable effects on insulin and glucose metabolism and may help to control energy intake. Dairy products have a relatively low carbohydrate content, and most of the carbohydrate is in the form of lactose which causes gastrointestinal symptoms in part of the population. In order to avoid these symptoms, dairy products can be replaced with lactose-free dairy products which are on the market in many parts of the world. However, the effects of lactose-free products on insulin and glucose metabolism have not been studied.

METHODS: In the present study, we investigated the effects of 1) a lactose-free milk drink, 2) a novel fibre-enriched, fat- and lactose-free milk drink and 3) normal fat-free milk on serum glucose and insulin levels and satiety using a randomized block design. Following an overnight fast, 26 healthy volunteers ingested 200 ml of one of these drinks on three non-consecutive days. Insulin and glucose levels and subjective satiety ratings were measured before the ingestion of the milk product and 20, 40, 60, 120 and 180 minutes after ingestion. The responses were calculated as the area under the curve subtracted by the baseline value (AUC minus baseline).

RESULTS: The insulin response was significantly lower for the fibre-enriched milk drink than it was for the other milk products (AUC, P=0,007). There were no differences in the response for glucose or in the AUC for the subjective satiety ratings between the studied milk products.

CONCLUSIONS: The present results suggest that this novel milk drink could have positive effects on insulin response.

As always, there's no way to know when or if this new milk will make it to your local supermarket. The good news is that research into lactose-free milk is not only continuing but seemingly more active than it has been in a long while. That has to mean more and better lactose-free milks available in the future.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Rice Vegan "Cheese" Blocks

Galaxy Nutritional Foods is one of the major names in the alternative "cheese" market. They make both soy-based cheese alternatives and rice-based cheese alternatives. These came in two varieties, by the way, one vegan and one non-vegan.

Why is this? The stumbling point for most vegan attempts to make a cheese substitute is that is doesn't melt properly. You need milk proteins to do that. The non-vegan alternatives from Galaxy have casein proteins added to give them the cheesy properties that many people prefer.

That makes these alternatives taboo for those with milk protein allergies, even though they are still lactose free and therefore acceptable for those of us with lactose intolerance. This is the correction I made of a newspaper article the last time I wrote about Galaxy.

Galaxy's big new news is that in addition to offering their Rice Vegan cheese slices in three flavors - American, Cheddar, and Pepper Jack - they are also introducing Rice Vegan blocks.

From the press release:

For the first time, vegan consumers now have a soy- and dairy-free block option in the cheese alternative section of natural foods stores – and they won’t have to sacrifice melt or taste. Galaxy Nutritional Foods, Inc., with leading cheese alternative brands Veggie, Rice, Vegan and Rice Vegan, is continuing to redefine the category with the introduction of Rice Vegan blocks – a rice-based alternative perfect for vegans or those with soy or dairy allergies.

While many vegan foods tend to be high in soy, Rice Vegan blocks offer an easy way for vegans to moderate or avoid soy in their diets and still enjoy a cheesy taste and melt. Not only are Rice Vegan blocks soy- and casein-free, they are also free of gluten, preservatives, cholesterol and trans fat. These blocks feature 55 percent organic ingredients, a smooth melt and are available in Mozzarella and Cheddar flavors.

And that's not all. The rest of their lines are New and Improved! (The press release actually uses that fantastically old and derided cliché "new and improved." Imagine. Press release writers get paid for their work. It's almost unbelievable.)
As a result of the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from consumers surrounding the recent relaunch of Galaxy’s Rice brand products with new ingredients and an improved taste, Galaxy began to similarly update all of its cheese alternative products. With this update, Galaxy’s Vegan and Veggy brand products now feature a new organic-soy base, and Rice Vegan Slices now have an organic-rice base. Galaxy also just relaunched its Veggie brand products, the No. 1 soy-based cheese alternative available in grocery stores, with similar improvements.

To support Galaxy’s new and improved product launches, has been redesigned. The new Web site incorporates the Galaxy brands’ new look and feel, and is coupled with increased functionality, as well as a focus on additional content including recipes, company news and healthy eating tips.

The new Rice Vegan blocks and other new and improved Galaxy products will debut with newly designed packaging later this year. Galaxy’s cheese alternatives can be found in the cheese alternative section of natural foods stores nationwide.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Yogurt and Probiotics - Part 2

Yesterday I told you that Dannon settled a class action suit over health and medical claims it made about its yogurts.

We've all seen the ads in which a glowing Jamie Leigh Curtis, the picture of 50-year-old health, smilingly spoons Activia while an off-screen announcer states that Activia is "clinically proven to regulate your digestive system in two weeks." Regulate is a code word here that means promotes a bowel movement in those with constipation. The collective twelve-year-old mentality of our humor community being what it is, more of the younger generation have probably seen the parodies of the ads on programs like Saturday Night Live than the original ads aimed at their parents and run during the national news programs along with ten thousand commercials for bladder fitness and erectile dysfunction.

Adweek reported that the ad campaign wrought the kind of health benefits on Dannon's bottom line that they could wish for in their yogurt:

In its first year, Activia sales soared to over $130 million, more than three times Dannon's original forecasts. The launch not only created a new powerhouse franchise for the world's largest yogurt company in the U.S., it helped drive one of the hottest new functional food categories: those containing probiotic ingredients.

Once we're past the cheap laughs, we get to the very adult issues of false and deceptive advertising. The lawsuit filed against Dannon claimed that:
Dannon’s own studies disproved the company’s boasts and that a study conducted by leading microbiologist and funded by Dannon determined in 2006 that there was "no conclusive evidence" of probiotics providing health benefits. The report, entitled "Probiotic Microbes: The Scientific Basis," was prepared by the American Academy of Microbiology, a leadership group of the American Society of Microbiology, the suit claims.

As another SNL bit asks, Really?

Under the settlement terms, Dannon will also change some language on Activia products, stating that the yogurt will help regulate the digestive system, IF eaten for two weeks and as part of a healthy lifestyle. The DanActive products will be changed from stating they have a positive effect on the immune system to "interact" with the digestive system's immune system.

DanActive had the word IMMUNITY in big capital letters on its bottles and was making health claims right and left. You can see it still on the DanActive site, although I don't know how long that will last.

If you were a DanActive or Activia user, you can sign up to get a cash refund at this settlement web page.

And maybe you should start saving those receipts if you eat Yo-Plus. The same Adweek article cited above also reported that on March 17, 2009, the same law firm

CSGR&R filed a class action suit in a Southern Florida District Court citing Yo-Plus' claims that its trademarked "exclusive" Optibalance bacteria cultures regulate digestive health in a way other yogurts do not.

Similar to language in the suit against Dannon, the complaint against Yo-Plus alleges, "General Mills has no support for these claims, even though it states that it does, going so far as to claim it has clinical proof. General Mills' representations are false, misleading and reasonably likely to deceive the public."

The suit further asserts, "General Mills' own studies fail to support this advertising message, and a number of them flatly contradict General Mills' claims. In fact, General Mills has never tested Yo-Plus for its ability to deliver the unique health benefits claimed in its advertising campaign."

Functional foods, foods with special nutrients or cultures added to promote health, are probably good for you in some ways, if you take care to watch that you're not just having a sugary treat disguised as medicine. The kicker is in the line that must be added. "IF eaten for two weeks and as part of a healthy lifestyle." The healthy lifestyle must come first. Functional foods aren't magic potions that substitute for doing right, exercising right, and eating right in the first place.

Do you really even need functional foods if you do all that? That's the $64 million question.

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